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Unknown ailment suspected killing Okinawa’s coral reefs

Date Posted: 2002-12-14

A study conducted by Professor Hideyuki Yamashiro of Meio Univerisity, Nago City, suggests previously unknown ailment causes whitening and ultimately death of coral reefs around Okinawa.

Yamashiro bases his claim on a study he has conducted since September around Iheya and Yonaguni Islands. He reports discovering that the coral was affected by a kind of tumor that caused it to swell and turn white. It is the first time such condition has been reported anywhere.

Professor Yamashiro says that until now the only known threats to coral reefs have been Crown of Thorns starfish and extraordinary warm weather that caused the coral to turn white and die. Some researchers have also found that bacteria associated with human and animal waste can destroy coral. “However, these factors are completely absent in both Iheya and Yonaguni. So what kills corals there must be something else,” Yamashiro explained.

“The first thing that we have to do is to figure out the reason coral in those areas die. When we understand the reason, we can devise ways to protect the corals,” Yamashiro said. He said that affected coral first becomes white and swollen and then dies.

He said that there is possibility that global warming is affecting corals. “If that is the case, we have to find a global solution, not only Okinawa, and that is a much larger task,” Yamashiro concluded.

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